DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki took a giant step back in time Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.
In an emotional nationally televised game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Nowitzki tallied a game-high 31 points and collected 11 rebounds as the Mavs captured a 118-108 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,805.
This was the first time Nowitzki scored at least 30 points in a regular season game since Dec. 28 when he tallied 30 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Obviously, despite being 37 years old, Nowitzki has proven that he can still toss in one of those eye-popping games for the ages every now and then.
"I mean I felt good, I worked all summer, played Euro ball, worked hard in camp,’’ he said. "I felt good the first couple of games, felt good here, but I don't want to get too excited.
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"I had a great month of November last year and then everything went down the drain for a couple of weeks, so I just want to take it game by game and work hard in between and see what I’ve got. The guys do a good job penetrating and finding me for my shots and I have a good rhythm going right now.’’
That’s putting it mildly.
Nowitzki was 11-of-14 from the field against the Clippers. He also was 5-of-6 from 3-point territory, including a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter when he banked it in from the top of the key.
"I saw Blake (Griffin) closing out really quick, so I wanted to get the shot off quick over him and when it left my hand it didn't feel good, felt long, but I’m just glad it went in,’’ Nowitzki said. "I’m trying to play hard all night.
"Sometimes you need a little luck. Paul (Pierce) banked one in the first half on the other wing, so I guess we got one back.’’
The Mavs got a lot of things back Wednesday, including their pride. Dallas got hammered Tuesday night in New Orleans, 120-105, against the then-winless Pelicans, but looked like serious world beaters less than 24 hours later against a Clippers’ team many observers believe have the talent to win the NBA title this season.
"Yeah, last night was almost embarrassing,’’ Nowitzki said. "We just didn't show up on many levels.
"Defensively we weren't good, but I didn't know what to expect. We responded the right way, showed some character, fought for each other.’’
The Mavs even won with small forward Chandler Parsons resting on the second night of a back-to-back. So what did the Mavs learn about themselves under these rugged conditions?
"It showed us that we can compete with anybody in this league,’’ said Nowitzki, who scored 34 points in Game 3 of last year’s first-round playoff series against Houston. "The problem is if we are going through the motions like last night we'll get rolled by everybody, especially in the West, (where there are a) lot of good teams, ( a) lot of deep teams.
"If we don't stick together on defense, make bad plays, force some shots, we're getting torched and that's what happened last night. Today was good.’’
Especially with Nowitzki having one those throwback games for the ages.
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com.